The Fourteen Points was a speech given by United States President Woodrow Wilson to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918. The address was intended to assure the country that the Great War was being fought for a moral cause and for postwar peace in Europe. People in Europe generally welcomed Wilson's intervention, but his Allied colleagues (Georges Clemenceau, David Lloyd George and Vittorio Emanuele Orlando) were skeptical of the applicability of Wilsonian idealism.
The speech was delivered 10 months before the Armistice with Germany and became the basis for the terms of the German surrender, as negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The Treaty of Versailles had little to do with the Fourteen Points and was never ratified by the U.S. Senate.
"Colonel" Edward M. House worked to secure the acceptance of the Fourteen Points by Entente Leaders. Sir William Wiseman was the Chief of British Intelligence in 1915. On October 16, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson and William Wiseman sat down for an interview. This interview was one reason why the German government accepted the Fourteen Points and the stated principles for peace negotiations.
The report made as negotiation points, and later the Fourteen Points was accepted by France and Italy on November 1, 1918. Britain later signed off on all of the points except the freedom of the seas. The United Kingdom also wanted Germany to make reparation payments for the war, and thought that that should be added to the Fourteen Points.
The U.S. joined the Allies in fighting the Central Powers on April 6, 1917. The Fourteen Points in the speech were based on the research of the Inquiry, a team of about 150 advisors led by foreign-policy advisor Edward M. House into the topics likely to arise in the anticipated peace conference. Wilson's speech on January 8, 1918, took many of the principles of progressivism that had produced domestic reform in the U.S. and translated them into foreign policy (free trade, open agreements, democracy and self-determination). The Fourteen Points speech was the only explicit statement of war aims by any of the nations fighting in World War I. Some belligerents gave general indications of their aims, but most kept their post-war goals private.
The speech also responded to Vladimir Lenin's Decree on Peace of October 1917, which proposed an immediate withdrawal of Russia from the war, calling for a just and democratic peace that was not compromised by territorial annexations, and led to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918.
1. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.
2. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
3. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
4. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.
6. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.
7. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.
8. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.
9. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
10. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.
11. Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.
12. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
13. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.
14. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.
1. There should be no secret alliances between countries
2. Freedom of the seas in peace and war
3. The reduction of trade barriers among nations
4. The general reduction of armaments
5. The adjustment of colonial claims in the interest of the inhabitants as well as of the colonial powers
6. The evacuation of Russian territory and a welcome for its government to the society of nations
7. The restoration of Belgian territories in Germany
8. The evacuation of all French territory, including Alsace-Lorraine
9. The readjustment of Italian boundaries along clearly recognizable lines of nationality
10. Independence for various national groups in Austria-Hungary
11. The restoration of the Balkan nations and free access to the sea for Serbia
12. Protection for minorities in Turkey and the free passage of the ships of all nations through the Dardanelles
13. Independence for Poland, including access to the sea
14. A league of nations to protect "mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small nations alike."